Sylvia Whitman is the proprietor of book shop Shakespeare & Co.
1. What initially inspired you to move here or visit?
My Father George Whitman.
2. Earliest Paris memory?
Standing on a street grid and having hot metro air blow up my dress.
3. Best neighbourhood you’ve ever lived in?
I want to do what the French writer Colette did which is to move every year and try each arrondissement (except maybe I’ll skip the 16th). For now, it would be where I currently live : Etienne Marcel. From my front door, take a left and you get to watch all the fashionistas doing a catwalk on the rue Montorgeuil, take a right and peek into the sex shops on rue St Denis. I like that combination.
4. What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in Paris?
It would have to be that amazing white night meal – it happens every year in a secret location. When I went it was on Place de la Concorde. 8 000 people eating a white meal in white on the Place, it was one of the most civilised, magical meals – I think about it every time I pass Concorde.
5. Sexiest moment you’ve had in Paris?
A more than romantic kiss in a church kissing someone I shouldn’t.
6. What do you hate most about living in Paris?
The fact that I can’t leave it ! And the pollution – this is a general city problem but have you ever cycled behind a bus here ? Stephane Hessel says we should be outraged about our environmental problem and that’s what I intend to do, be outraged.
7. Who’s your favourite Parisian — be they living or dead, real or fictional?
Tara Mulholland from the band Minnie Moskowitz.
8. Favourite cinema?
Has to be La Pagode, anywhere with a cat strolling through has my heart.
9. Right bank or left bank? And why?
The island in between – ha ha. Paris is a woman with two moods. I like both so I’ll choose the island, the heart of it, kilometer zero, sitting in Notre-Dame (not kissing).
10. Favourite Caviste?
There’s a place in Montmartre, on rue des Abesses I think, really simple and rustic. Lined with bottles and at the back, there are some wooden tables to have a glass and a few nibbles.
11. Where do you go to escape the city?
Pére Lachaise if I have time otherwise down by the river with my dog Colette.
12. Where are the best looking girls or boys in Paris and why?
Shakespeare & Company! Seriously, I think I might start a dating agency alongside selling books.
13. Where do you get your news?
I get the news from the IHT and Le Monde after my Father has read them, usually they are covered in coffee and porridge so it makes me feel like Goldilocks only able to read half of what’s going on in the world. The rest I get from my worldly friends.
14. Favourite museum?
That one with all the medical tools on rue écoles de medicines. Thank god we live today and those tools are in a museum no longer on the operating table. They look like they belong to a farm rather than anything medical.
15. Favourite shop?
Metamorphoses. A small, dark jewellery store in the 5th run by a woman who is tiny and has been there for 50 years. There are deer heads on the walls, vintage jewellery and the little lady in a corner hunched over a pair of earrings that she is fixing with her arthritic hands. I want to write a tale about this place where you disappear into a dark world when you put on the wrong ring.
16. Who’s the most stylish Paris personality?
Clemence Poesy has got all the style a girl can get.
17. What is your favourite film that is set in Paris?
Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and every day I re-live that raw romance, crossing over the bridge on my bicycle.
18. What about Paris most inspires you?
Its sense of dream and possibility.
19. What makes someone a Parisian?
Saying Je suis Parisien.
20. What’s your favourite French word? (Swear words allowed!)
Chouette. It feels sweet on the lips, especially if you say it slowly or like some kind of secret if you say it quick.